"Each time I look at myself I die a little bit inside. I am 30 years old and my existence seems pointless."
These were the words of Johannesburg-based electronic engineer Taariqa Archary as she gave evidence on Monday from her wheelchair against the drunk driver who put her in it.
Stephan Bothma, 27, a personal trainer from Hillcrest, has pleaded guilty before Durban Magistrate Phumlani Bhengu to driving under the influence of alcohol - he was more than five times the legal limit - and failing to perform the duties of a driver when he sped off through the red robot after smashing into the back of a car in Durban's CBD a year ago.
Taariqa's husband, Hamresin Archary, who was driving the car, was uninjured. But her sister Varsha Maharaj, then a candidate attorney, suffered brain injuries and Taariqa was left a quadriplegic.
Bothma was arrested in Hillcrest some 30km from the scene.
In his guilty plea, he said he had been drinking beers and shooters at the rugby and intended to phone his fiancé for a lift home but his phone battery died.
"I decided to drive… I am extremely regretful of that decision. I admit I drove at excessive speed, I swerved in and out of traffic and failed to stop at an intersection," he said.
In evidence, he claimed to not have been aware of the crash.
Taariqa read from her three-page victim impact in which she described how her life had changed.
With no use of her hands, she can do very little for herself and said her condition was a "life sentence".
She could never have a family, nor work and further her career.
"Emotionally all I see is darkness. It is a daily struggle. There are times when I go to bed and hope I don't wake up in the morning.
"I can't turn over in bed by myself. I can't administer my own medication... I will never be able to wear that pretty dress or use those high heels.
"Why should I suffer because of his [Bothma's] decision to drive drunk, while it has no impact on his life?... He is asking for leniency because he is a first-time offender. Well I, as a first-time victim, am asking for retribution."
Hamresin told the court that they had met while studying and had married two years before the crash.
"On that night he [Bothma] had one intention - to save himself and get away with it. He is now doing that again.
"I do not believe he is remorseful."
In suggesting a sentence of 10 years - five for each "serious injury" - he said his intention was not to destroy Bothma's life but to save many more by making an example of him to deter others.
Under cross-examination, he denied that he was "very angry".
"There is no point… I was but now we have to face our reality."
Prosecutor Thandazile Arosi argued that Bothma must go to jail.
"He must have known that he had crashed into their car because the impact must have been huge. But he selfishly drove off.
"He only pleaded guilty because the evidence against him was overwhelming," she said.
Defence advocate Shazi Khumbu said he had already reformed because he had given up drinking and that he should be given a sentence of correctional supervision and house arrest.
For the second time the magistrate asked her views on periodic imprisonment. She responded that he worked over weekends.
She also argued that he must keep his driver's licence because he needed it for work.
Sentence will be handed down later this month.
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